Shakespeare never got cuter, it seems. Kelly Asbury and co. bring the bard’s tale to the big screen in 3D in one of the most charming and child-friendly ways possible, whilst educating the little darlings in the process.

Yes, garden gnomes are used to retell the tale of forbidden love across the divide – or the garden fence in this case – and there’s a touch of Shakespeare’s As You Like It thrown in for good measure to a rocking Elton John soundtrack. As the chubby porcelain figurines never fail to put a smile on the face, Gnomeo & Juliet comfortably sets the scene for a quintessentially eccentric British tale.

Garden gnomes Gnomeo and Juliet find love one night under the moonlight in an overgrown garden, whilst trying to locate a flower, and Juliet wows Gnomeo with her ninja moves. The trouble is, Gnomeo is a Blue-hatted gnome and Juliet is a Red-hatted one, and never the twain shall meet. But with the help of an abandoned plastic pink flamingo, this diminutive young couple find lasting happiness and unite the warring factions.

The beauty of this film, apart from its eccentricity and originality in bringing garden ornaments to life is the visual background detail that will be lost on one viewing. There are so many references that it does require a second sitting. Initially, the thought of just sitting through one was a little daunting, but this story draws you into a magical existence, and is so soft hearted and daft at times in that delightfully British ‘Carry On Laughing’ way that it’s hard not to be swayed by the little garden people. But don’t be deceived; these gnomes are a bunch of pottery hot heads, obsessed with blasting the hell out of each other and their neighbouring showpieces, or winning the coveted lawnmower race held in the adjoining alleyway.

Asbury has given each one a contemporary, street/garden-smart personality that kids of all ages seem to respond to in this day and age for things to be a little more ‘believable’. Don’t expect the idyllic tales of days gone by, like Tangled this is animation for the Noughties, where it seems innocence has long gone and been replaced with reality injections, as well as the token adult double entendres to be considered all-round family entertainment. Even though there is one ‘traumatic’ scene involving a lawnmower that will cause trouble for some parents with sensitive youngsters, everything else is kept clean and above board – albeit it there is a mankini-wearing, gay fellow who brightens up the flowerbeds.

Indeed, the film-makers have been very fortunate in bringing the characters to life with a fantastic cast that includes the voices of James McAvoy, Emily Blunt, Michael Caine, Jason Statham, Maggie Smith, Patrick Stewart, Ashley Jensen, Matt Lucas, Stephen Merchant and even Ozzy Osbourne as a bad-joke-telling gnome. For this reason alone, the film has some impressive credentials.

As for the 3D, it was put to good use, as only animation seems to know how, and was comfortable on the eyes, helped in part by the vivid colours and amenable pace. Indeed, there is some painstaking detail, from the visual dust and fluttering foliage, to the sound of chinking hats and miniature torsos that just remind you that you are still in fact watching gnomes. And as new daddies, Elton and David Furnish are producing, fans of the music will get an added thrill that tops the Englishness of the whole affair, especially when one gnome ‘goes all flamboyantly Elton’ on us.

Admittedly, there have been far better offerings of late in this genre, with Disney certainly leading the way. Cynically, you could argue that Hollywood loves to cash in on a Shakespearean tale, even to the point of the flaming obvious with a showman statue of the bard making an appearance in this film. But although there are some Tinseltown additions (the glitzy ‘Disney’ style pink castle that would never see the light of day in a gnome-filled English garden), Gnomeo & Juliet still feels almost homegrown, gleefully celebrating English quirkiness, fetishes and way of life, even though the topics have universal significance. It’s a bit of colourful fun that fast turns into a surprisingly guilty pleasure, to be honest. You’d have to have a heart of stone not to be entertained.